Turning Our Eyes Towards Joy
My kids ran ahead of us through the tall prairie grass. Their arms were stretched out to the sides, praising God for his creation. I couldn’t believe we had almost missed out on such an amazing experience. Missed the joy of being together as a family. Would not have experienced the jagged mountains of Colorado while hanging off a cliff aboard an old, steam locomotive. My husband and I would not have heard our children squeal with delight at each new wonder and experience. I had almost missed the quiet, deep breaths I took while walking out into a field, photographing the mountains. I almost turned a deaf ear to God, the lover of my soul, who said to my heart, “See all the good things I have in store for you?” It took a crazy, twenty-four-hour exploit for God to open my heart wide enough to embrace a long-missed joy.
You see, my husband loves to travel on airplanes. This passion of his is one of the qualities that drew me to him, and it is contagious. Give him too long without a plane trip, and he gets fidgety. After much travel uncertainty these past six months because of COVID-19, he stumbled upon a great price for a plane ride. It was a twenty-four hour trip aboard a low-cost carrier to Denver, Colorado. And just like that, my husband became a big kid ready for adventure. I almost crushed his soul-loving enthusiasm beneath my fear, doubts, and lack of trust.
The litany of doubts mounted in my mind. Flying twelve hundred miles west for a day was not practical. The kids would have just finished their first week of school. It was frightening and not worth the risk. God responded to my many questions: What if we got sick? "What if you don’t?" What if my surgically repaired ankle gives out? "What if I give you rest?" What if we got stuck in Denver? "What if I give you joy?" With each doubt, the Holy Spirit met me with the same answer: "Take the adventure." Finally I halted my what-ifs, took in a breath, and opened my heart to the possibility of joy. Let’s do it, let’s have an adventure!
As we boarded the airplane, I no longer focused on what could go wrong and looked for the joy. Packing lighter than we ever had before, we embarked on our adventure with only two cinch sacs and a camera bag, The flight crew was wonderful and engaging. My daughter and son enjoyed taking pictures of our take-off. As we flew over the patchwork quilt of the Midwest, my daughter snapped pictures and marveled at the crop circles created by irrigation.
Once we landed in Denver, we could not contain the excitement of the kids. Our family hopped in the rental car and made way to our first destination. Trusting the GPS instead of my husband's experience of the fastest route to our train ride, we ventured off the beaten path to a road that skirted along the rocky cliffs. The kids oohed and awed, seeing for the first time the gorgeous rock formations of the Rocky Mountains. I found myself unabashedly laughing and taking pictures at every turn. It was like having the Creator of the Universe as our tour guide. Always pointing out the things that would delight each of us.
Our train conductor regaled us with jokes and facts about the railroad and Georgetown history. We saw lots of prairie dogs, birds, and even a friendly chipmunk. My husband surprised us with a sunset walk through a nature preserve. With prairie in the foreground and mountains as the backdrop, the kids ran ahead, praising God and searching for animals. With the beauty of the preserve stuck in our heads, we returned the next morning to watch the sunrise over the prairie grass. We celebrated God's gift of a new day with breakfast of stuffed french toast. Oh my! was all I could say about our amazing day in the mountains. I thanked God for allowing each moment to linger, and was reminded that Jesus came so that I may have life to the fullest (John 10:10). My heart is still filled with joy from our adventure. Full of love, full of life, and absent fear.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
What are you risking to really live? Jesus says in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (ESV). What does the thief come to steal and destroy? The thief who is Satan, has the goal to destroy our joy, hope, health, and even our own image, which is made in the likeness of God. Satan does this by planting fear in our hearts, hoping we will let it take over our desire for good. Abundant life is not a life absent of troubles, but it is living a life where our souls are no longer hindered by fear. If you could do anything that would be free from fear, what would it be? The fullest life is lived when we run towards our belief in and trust of a God who loves us. Who wants good things for us. And I have discovered that when I embrace these good things, life is fulfilling. I invite you to join me in a life in God that satisfies like no other.
Lord, fear is the thief of my joy. Teach me to embrace your prompting and hold out my hands eagerly for your good gifts. Thank you for the gift of joy that exists in my life. Amen
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